A vision of saluting World War II-era veterans across the Grand Strand took off in November 2010.
Honor Flight Grand Strand/Myrtle Beach has made six chartered day trips to visit the war memorials in Washington, D.C. The seventh, the finale, will fly this Wednesday.
Finding veterans from “The Greatest Generation” whose health in their mid- to upper 80s still will let them make this excursion has become a challenge, especially with an average of 1,000 such veterans nationwide who die every day. Every one of them flies for free as a gift, part of each flight’s $60,000 price tag met solely through donations from sponsoring guardians who accompany a veteran or two and foot $500 for their own fares, and through fundraisers from groups across the community, such as Blue Star Mothers.
Bert Cassels of Pawleys Island, a retired Navy captain, has remained the local Honor Flight director and an ambassador since he and wife GG Cassels got the inaugural flight going.
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He said the enterprise started as “just kind of a vision” that “just kept building.” When the local entourages visit Washington, the veterans have felt so floored and honored by the people who greet them, from schoolchildren on field trips, to young adults and tourists from other countries.
Bert Cassels called all the people who have met them at all the memorials so “welcoming and wonderful.” That reception results not only for the Grand Strand fliers, but Honor Flights from “all over the country,” he said.
‘Overjoyed’ at greetings
This kindness also reassures the veterans, “who went through an awful lot so many years ago,” thinking that nobody would ever remember them,” Cassels said, calling them “overjoyed.” Then, arriving back home, seeing Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and scout troops among service groups and other well-wishers, “some of these guys just break down and cry.”
“They’re happy that the younger generation has responded to what they did,” Cassels said.
Walter Kollet and wife Angela Kollet have co-chaired the local Honor Flights since the second voyage, in May 2011. Fellow coordinator William Krzyk of Surfside Beach called this pair the “logistical geniuses” behind the scenes with such tasks as arranging carriers such as US Airways; tour-bus transportation, permits and scheduling in the nation’s capital; and managing the finances and all veteran/guardian applications.
The easiest step in the whole process, Walter Kollet said, noting any irony, has been “getting the plane,” but each overall travel experience has its own unique flow. For this finale, a contingent of veterans who were on active duty in the Korean War, will join 47 elders from World War II. So this time, a few extra minutes will be spent at the Korean War Memorial, in addition to the very first stop, the National World War II Memorial, as well as memorials for the Navy, Vietnam War veterans, Abraham Lincoln, Marine Corps, and the “Changing of the Guard” ritual at Arlington National Cemetery. Lunch on a bus will cover other sightseeing.
Kollet, who will visit Normandy, France, in June for the 70th anniversary of D-Day, said that just last week, he noticed that Grand Strand Honor Flights draw so many more Navy veterans, then “it dawned on me why,” because so many ground personnel in the Army and Marines lost their lives in both theaters of World War II and that ship personnel might have had a better chance of survival to return stateside.
Each veteran flying this week also received a book by Larkin Spivey, a retired Marine Corps officer who served in the Vietnam War and in the Nixon administration: “Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith & Courage from World War II” or “Stories of Faith and Courage from the Korean War,” published by God & Country Press in 2009 and 2013, respectively. Inspired by Honor Flight, Spivey also coordinated a chartered bus trip to the memorials in Washington in July for 42 local Korean War veterans.
Flights will continue April 22 from Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in Greer, May 7 from Columbia Metropolitan Airport, and Sept. 6 from Charleston International Airport, and through a group’s bus trips May 16-18 and Sept. 5-7 from suburban Savannah, Ga. Check www.honorflights.org for plans.
‘Total community effort’
The Grand Strand’s embrace of the Honor Flight cause, “volunteering their time, talents, goods and services, and making it easy to call on the business community for financial help” fill a big collective memory for Krzyk. He said the “significant donations” to fly as guardians and “the media shouting our story time and time again to help us locate these senior veterans” have played valuable roles.
“It’s hard to constantly ask for support,” Krzyk said. “Just talk with any volunteer of a worthy cause, especially when the economy is struggling. This isn’t Big City USA, but the community responded like such – very big. Every Honor Flight always made the mark. Each flight funded on time, each seat filled with a deserving World War II veteran or a guardian sponsor.”
Krzyk summed up Honor Flight Grand Strand/Myrtle Beach” as “a total community effort.”
The community extends in other directions, too. At the orientation meeting April 2 for this final flight, Beryl Chandler of Johnsonville, listened to the rundown for this big day coming up for his father, Samuel Chandler, 90, an Army veteran, who was sitting by his guardian, Jane Hughes, whose late husband ran the company that employed the elder Chandler.
His son said that Krzyk confirmed he was the first to inquire about this flight, from back in August, and Hughes said at the meeting that she’s as eager as Samuel Chandler to join this trip, all as a large “family.”
Eugene Rodgers, who turns 90 in May, said he’s making this trip to honor six fellow Army Air Corps colleagues who didn’t return home alive from World War II. A survivor of a German prisoner-of-war camp, the Little River resident said Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes will be his guardian for Honor Flight, doing double duty to help another veteran on the trip.
Living only one way, upbeat, Rodgers said he enjoys touring the United States with his 95-year-old girlfriend in their camper.
“We had to give up league bowling,” he said. “It interferes with our travel.”
Age might only be a number to him.
When we reach 100,” Rodgers said, “we’re going to retire.”
War forgotten no more
Sporting a “KOREAN VETERAN” cap, George J. Cooke of Murrells Inlet was chatting with numerous folks at the Honor Flight meeting, and showing a copy of a booklet “Remembered Moments in Korean War” published by the Korea Health Industry Development Institute for its “Body & Seoul 2013 Korean War Veterans & Families Health Appreciation Event.”
The institute’s photo contest results included three honored entries that Cooke snapped during his nine-month rotation on the Korean peninsula in 1951-52, about a year after his high school graduation in New Jersey, where he had joined the Army National Guard.
He earned a runner-up nod for a photo of five Korean children, including one boy holding a carbine. Another picture shows Cooke sitting on the ground, legs forward, as he bends over and uses his helmet as a sink. The third photo shows an isolated, signpost, 45 miles northeast of South Korea’s capital.
Cooke, who also cooked for his fellow troops, is ready for Honor Flight, a triumph, a long way from the memory of staying in bunkers all day long as North Korean and Chinese forces fired artillery south to celebrate communism on May Day 1952. He’s thankful the Korean War is no longer “the forgotten war.”
Anyone who spots a “Korean Veteran” S.C. commemorative license plate will see the design that resulted from a full-size version that Cooke said he sent to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, used exactly as he submitted. He also was honored with the first plate, No. 1.
Contact STEVE PALISIN at (843) 444-1764.
HONOR FLIGHT GRAND STRAND/MYRTLE BEACH
Where | Round trip from Myrtle Beach to the war memorials in Washington, D.C.
What and when | Seventh and final daylong journey, this Wednesday
Information | (843) 957-8212, www.honorflightmyrtlebeach.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
BY THE NUMBERS
517 – Collective number of World War II-era veterans who have taken one of these six day trips: 86 on Nov. 10, 2010; 90 on May 25, 2011; 85 on Oct. 26, 2011; 90 on May 23, 2012; 88 on Oct. 24, 2012; and 78 on Aug. 28, 2013
77 – Veterans scheduled to go this Wednesday – 47 from World War II era, 30 from Korean War – a first time with these veterans aboard
500th – veteran to fly, Claudius Huggins of Myrtle Beach, in 2013
10 – Female veterans who took Honor Flight – 8 in previous six treks, and two this week
BY THE TIMETABLE
Agenda for this Wednesday – all times approximate:
8 a.m. – Depart Myrtle Beach International Airport
9:29 – Arrive at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C.
10:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. – Tour National World War II Memorial, on the National Mall
12:15-12:45 p.m. – Bus tour of Washington, with lunch aboard bus
12:45-1:15 – Tour Navy Memorial
1:30-2:15 – Time to tour any or all of the memorials for Korean War veterans, Vietnam veterans, and Abraham Lincoln
2:30-3 – U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial – also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial
3:15 – Arrive at Women in Military Service For America Memorial
4 – See “Changing of the Guard” ritual at Arlington National Cemetery
4:45 – Depart Arlington National Cemetery
5:15 – Arrive at Reagan National Airport, and depart on return flight at 6
7:30 – Land in Myrtle Beach
OTHER REGIONAL HONOR FLIGHT NETWORK TRIPS CONTINUING
Honor Flight Upstate, based in Simpsonville, from Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in Greer, April 22 – 864-869-8387 (VETS), 864-963-5774 or www.honorflightupstatesc.com.
Honor Flight South Carolina, from Columbia Metropolitan Airport, May 7 – 803-582-8826 or honorflightsc.com.
Honor Flight Lowcountry, from Charleston International Airport, planning next trip for Sept. 6 – 843-906-0399 or honorflightlowcountry.com.
Honor Flight Savannah, chartered bus trips from Pooler, Ga., May 16-18 and Sept. 5-7 – 912-367-9020 or www.honorflightsavannah.org.
More details | www.honorflight.org
OTHER WAYS TO HONOR HEROES
WORLD WAR II REGISTRY
Where | www.wwiimemorial.com/default.asp?page=registry.asp&subpage=intro
SIXTH ANNUAL ‘MILITARY APPRECIATION DAYS’
By | City of Myrtle Beach and PGBA Inc.
When | All of May
Special events include |
Traveling Vietnam Wall – “The Wall That Heals “ – open 24 hours daily, May 14-18, near Myrtle Beach’s Crabtree Memorial Gymnasium, accessed from Farrow Parkway, by The Market Common.
5K Run, 7:30 a.m. May 24, on Ocean Boulevard from Plyler Park Mr. Joe White Avenue and including the boardwalk – free for military (active duty, reserves and veterans), otherwise $20.
Memorial Day weekend parade, with Montel Williams, Navy veteran and former talk show host, as grand marshal, 10:30 a.m. May 24 on Myrtle Beach’s Ocean Boulevard, from 27th Avenue North southward to Ninth Avenue North.
Family Picnic, noon-2 p.m. May 24, on Ocean Boulevard, with military exhibits, children’s activities, concert by Andrew Thielen Big Band, and meet-and-greet with Montel Williams. Free meals from Omar Shriners chefs for all military personnel and veterans, and their families
Veterans Beard & ’Stache Beach Bash, on May 24, for veterans, with such categories as Full Beard, Corporate Beard, Partial Beard (Chops, Goatees, Chin Straps),’Stache, Long Beard, Long ‘Stache, Epic Beard, and for all women – even those who are not veterans – Ladies’ Faux. Email email@example.com to sign up, and register formally 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. that day at “Beard Table,” then judging starts at 12:30 p.m.
Memorial Day Ceremony, with Grand Strand Patriotic Alliance, 11 a.m. May 26 at Myrtle Beach Convention Center Plaza, on Oak Street at 21st Avenue North.
Information | (843) 918-1014 or www.militaryappreciationdays.com
By | Myrtle Beach Pelicans, the Advanced-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, and Embrace Hospice
To | Salute veterans at 11 baseball games this year
Where | TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark, 1251 21st Ave. N., Myrtle Beach, at Grissom Parkway
When | all 7:05 p.m.:
Saturdays – April 19; May 3, 17 and 31; June 7, and 21; July 12 and 19; and Aug. 2 and 30.
“Military Appreciation Night,” June 6 – on 70th anniversary of Allied’s D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, in World War II – including distribution of baseball card sets of late and living local veterans from all U.S. conflicts.
Also | Video tributes, produced by the Coastal Carolina University Center for Military and Veterans Studies, at each game, honoring living, local World War II veterans – to nominate an honoree, also for the card set, email an application (found at www.milb.com/documents/2/8/2/68349282/2014_Embrace_Veterans_Application_5254a3g8.pdf) to Katelyn Guild, Pelicans corporate sales manager, at KGuild@MyrtleBeachPelicans.com or pick one up at, and drop off or mail to, the Pelicans front office, 1251 21st Ave. N., Myrtle Beach, SC 29577, open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays.
Game tickets | Advance prices (and add $1 on game day):
April-May –$8 left-field bleachers, $9 upper deck reserved and $11 field box
June-September – $8/$11/$13, respectively
All-You-Can-Eat Seats, $25, with buffet overlooking Pelicans’ bullpen, in right field
Information | 918-6000, 877-918-8499 or www.myrtlebeachpelicans.com
SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALL SUPPER BENEFIT
Also | Public welcome
When | 4:30-6 p.m. April 23
Where/Benefiting | Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10420, 3459 U.S. 17 Bypass, Murrells Inlet
How much | All you can eat for $7
Information/reservations | (843) 651-6900
Also | This VFW post continues sales of 473 memorial bricks for $50 each to honor anyone – even someone who’s not a veteran or VFW member – for its Fallen Warriors Memorial, the granite on which salutes 109 service personnel from South Carolina who have died in Iraq or Afghanistan in the war on terror. Plans progress with hopes for completion of all brick sales and installation before the post’s “re-dedication” services on Memorial Day. (Its initial dedication was on Veterans Day 2013.) Details at 222-2791.
JAZZ CONCERT BENEFIT
By | Stephanie Trick-Alderighi, pianist – and wife of Paolo Alderighi, another jazz pianist
Benefiting | Help A Veteran, a nonprofit organization assisting veterans with special needs
When | 1-4 p.m. May 31
Where | Grand Strand Senior Center, 1268 21st Avenue N., Myrtle Beach
How much | $15 individual, or two for $25
Information | (843) 222-0718 or firstname.lastname@example.org
HALL OF HEROES
When | Open 9 a.m. daily
Where | Sands Ocean Dunes Resort, 201 75th. Ave. N., Myrtle Beach
How much | Free
Includes | Scaled replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, with all 58,253 names; information about each U.S. war/conflict; displays on flags and the Korean War; Gold Dog Tag display honoring those that died in hostile action since the Vietnam War; and names and location of the 2,984 Americans who perished on Sept. 11, 2001.
Information | (843)692-5265, 692-5100 or www.sandsresorts.com/hall-of-heroes
‘MINI MILITARY MUSEUM’
Where | Veterans Cafe & Grille, 3544 Northgate Blvd., Myrtle Beach, in Northgate Plaza, off S.C. 707 at southwest corner at U.S. Bypass, near Dollar General
When | 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays
Also | Meetings on third Friday monthly for veterans of the Merchant Marines and all services, by John. T. Schmidt Chapter/Palmetto Mariners, with lunch and fellowship at noon, meeting at 1 p.m. Guest speakers on April 18: Carroll and Lynn Prosser, from DAV Grand Strand Chapter 30. Details at (843) 651-8046 or www.usmmsc.com.
Information | (843) 232-8387